Shopdropping, lifted

Posted by Rob Walker on April 13, 2007
Posted Under: Anti,Ethics,Murketing

Here then, my final bit on the subject(s) of backlashes, word-of-mouth, and the allegedly forthcoming “world in which consumer engagement occurs without consumer interruption.”

A couple of months ago, I got an email from someone named Jessica, which said: “Hey. First, I think you have a great site. I work for and we have a new video online about shopdropping.” She passed on the link, which she encouraged me to post, forward, or whatever. “It seems that shopdropping is a project that’s becoming an international trend,” she added, “and definitely deserves attention!”

Travelistic turned out to be “a site that lets you explore the world through video. We host all kinds of travel videos, including user uploads, professional content, and tourist board videos.”

The video on Travelistic that Jessica pointed me to was made at a recent workshop led by Steve Lambert of the Anti-Advertising Agency, which described shopdropping as “a tactic used by artists and activists to clandestinely place objects in retail stores. ‘Dropped’ objects are usually versions of consumer products altered or recreated to detourn the retail experience. Shopdropping is a fun and easy form of culture jamming, gently subverting dominant cultural forms to create new meanings.”

On the Travelistic site, the video was headlined “Culture Jamming 101.”

I looked back at Jessica’s email, and noted that her address ended not in, but in This turned out to be “a high-energy creative think tank and advertising agency.” High energy! I like that! What else can you tell me?? I checked the site.

We could tell you we’ve crafted online strategic branding campaigns for global Fortune 500 companies, and handled the positioning and PR for multi-national accounts. But all of that seems a bit too limiting. We manage every aspect of promoting your business from conception to execution. In a word, we are ideas.

Okay, that’s enough. Stop.

Whether or not shopdropping is becoming an international trend, it was certainly never intended to be repurposed for a word of mouth advertising campaign. But I have to say, this approach seems to have been at least somewhat effective. I know that the day I after I got the email from “Jessica,” the Consumerist had a post that, while snotty and dismissive of shopdropping as a tactic, did link to Travelistic. (They didn’t mention a press release or email from “Jessica” or anyone else, so maybe they found it some other way; I don’t know.) If you Google “shopdropping,” the Travelistic “Culture Jamming 101” link comes up just ahead of a link to the Anti-Advertising Agency’s site.

(Also, there used to be a comment from a certain “Jessica” on the AAA site, which said: “Hey I just saw a video about you guys on This is the first I’m hearing about shop dropping, but I think it’s great! I’m definitely going to start downloading and dropping. Check out the video,” followed by a link to Travelistic. The comment has since been deleted*.)

Here, then, is another glimpse of what we may have to look forward to in the post-TiVo era. The 30-second ad might be less effective, and more rarely seen. But that just means everything else under the sun becomes potential fodder for “buzz”-building. Even videos of culture-jamming workshops.


[* Mr. Lambert did not know about “Jessica’s” efforts until I brought it up. I hope to be able to share some of his thoughts about this and other subjects in a forthcoming Q&A on this site.]

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

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